End of Season Prospect Review: Nico Hoerner

Nico Hoerner (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Nico Hoerner (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

hoerner_2018_ratings

My hopes for him after 2018 draft

1) Show enough athleticism to remain at SS long term

2) Show off the contact skills and speed to be potential table setter

Season Review

hoerner_2018_stats

Nico Hoerner hit the ground running as a professional and never really looked back. An elbow injury slowed his rapid ascent through the Cubs system. Hoerner appeared in a handful of games for both of the Cubs short season affiliates before becoming the 2nd member of the 2018 draft class to reach a full season affiliate this season. Now healthy, he will be the only player from this class to represent his club in the Arizona Fall League this October.

Positives

He'll never be a Gold Glover at SS, but Hoerner showed me more than enough to feel comfortable with the idea that he can make all of the necessary plays at the position. He is a little bigger and less fluid than ideal for the spot, but overcomes some of his shortcomings through his combination of speed and strength.

That plus speed also translates on the bases.

The bat control is legit. Reminds me a bit of Almora in that fashion except I feel Hoerner has more raw strength. Guy is ripped. There is also plenty of bat speed. Easy to understand why the Cubs felt there was untapped power potential. Once he learns to wait for a good pitch and drive it to his pull side, the power will come.

Negatives

Difficult to find anything but positives in his actual performance and how he has handled all off the field matters so far. Unfortunate timing with the wrist injury as Hoerner was already showing he belonged in the MWL and that promotion to the Carolina League was not out of the question over the final month. He is healthy enough to play in the Arizona Fall League and despite the limited action in the second half, I feel comfortable with that posting for him. I see no reason for him to be overwhelmed against that level of competition. Not only is his present skill level up to snuff, but he already possesses a sturdy and physically mature frame capable of competing at any level.

Summation

Couldn't ask for a more impressive debut, injury not withstanding. Hoerner met or exceeded all on field expectations I had for him.

2019 Outlook

Hoerner is a near lock to open next year no lower than Myrtle Beach, with Tennessee a high probability that could become a lock depending on his showing in the AFL. There could be some overlap in the development timeline with Aramis Ademan which bears watching to see how the Cubs handle it. Getting one, or both, some additional experience at other positions if they end up on the same team for a month or two would not be the end of the world.

Comments

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    A guy with good bat-to-ball skills, the potential of power and can "make the plays" at SS. Where do I sign? I don't need him to be Javy/Addison at SS. If he can be a back-up there, or maybe an emergency guy, I would be more than happy with that. Play there maybe 100-300 innings.

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    He seems to have a much higher ceiling than Ademan. I assume from what you write that the injury to his elbow is merely a temporary injury with no long term effects.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The injury was to his non-throwing elbow and did not require surgery. IIRC he used the arm to brace himself diving for a ball in the field.

    He has a higher offensive ceiling than Ademan. Ademan is the superior defender. Hoerner is much bigger, stronger and faster but Ademan is extremely smooth, his hands are slick, his tags and transfers from glove to throw are lightning quick.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Sounds like both have "weaknesses" but both also have serious strengths. We'll let the minor leagues sort this out. It usually become obvious as the advance higher and higher which one is the prospect and which one is a "good player."

    Does Hoerner have the necessary power to move to a corner infield or corner OF spot?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Hoerner has the athleticism for basically every position on the field and the bat should play at multiple spots. I wouldn't really say that Hoerner has a weakness though. He should end up with average-to-plus tools across the board.

    Ademan is pure middle infielder. If the bat doesn't progress as hoped, he can still be a defensive-minded back up, but I think he could end up a league average hitter with 10-12 HR pop and decent on base skills as well.

    Both are high probability MLB roster players. I believe Hoerner has the higher ceiling and greater chance of becoming a starter. Second base is likely his "best" spot, but I believe he can play a MLB shortstop as well. Ademan is a very good bet to be an above-average or plus defensive SS.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That's why I put "weaknesses" in quotes and not "strengths." Kind of what I meant. As I said before, if Hoerner can be a plausible back up SS I am happy with that. If he can also play some OF and corner infield could he be Happ with a little less speed, a less power, but a better ability to make contact?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think he is a step faster than Happ, is a far more natural infielder with superior hands, and will definitely make more contact. I've never seen Hoerner play the OF, but I see no reason he couldn't play it as well or better than Happ (assuming his arm is up to the task of RF).

    Happ definitely has the edge in power (even if Hoerner makes adjustments to tap into his more frequently) and likely in patience as well. Hoerner does have a good eye, but when he does get a strike to hit, he rarely misses it, and puts the ball in play. Hoerner probably ends up with average or maybe a little better than average walk rates because of that.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Does Hoerner maybe have a little more Almora in him? Not saying Almora is a "comp" but just the ability to put the bat on the ball but sometimes will swing at a pitch because he can make contact rather than waiting on something to drive. Almora has improved but when he first came up that was the caveat I read from a lot of people about his contact ability.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, I actually mention that in the article under the Positives section.

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    I’ve noticed that one talent the Cubs look fir is bat speed. Almost all, if not all of their choices have superior bat speed.
    Thanks Michael. It must be very nice to write about someone with so many talents.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It actually goes much deeper than simple bat speed. The Cubs are on the cutting edge of advanced neurological testing, determining hand-eye coordination and how it would apply to future offensive production. This, of course, goes hand-in-hand (pun intended) with bat speed, and is a big reason the organization has been much higher on prospects and draftees such as Hoerner than many other pundits and publications.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I've been busy and off the board for a while so I missed your return. Good to "read your voice" again, if that makes sense.

  • I didn't really delve into in the article, and tend to shy away from bringing up personality/work ethic/makeup because I just do not get to interact with any of these players in order to form my own opinion, but sometimes I hear positive reports from multiple people. By all accounts Hoerner is a terrific kid with off the charts makeup and work ethic.

  • Three short stops in the top 30 ! Bye Bye Addison !

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    I actually have 4 in my top 35

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    And the Cubs have a few more in Rookie ball that bear watching as well.

  • Hendricks throwing a gem !
    GO CUBS !

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